Helping people who are experiencing food insecurity and hunger can take many different forms. You can donate food items directly to families in need. You can give shelf-stable food to pantries and food banks. Or you can grow the food you want to donate! That is what our Assistant Writing Manager Dreana Ferguson was inspired to do for her community in Broome County, New York.
Dreana is well aware of the need for food in her community: “Broome County’s food insecurity rate is around 14%-15% overall. Children bear the brunt of it; their food insecurity rate in my county is 21%-22%,” based on data from Feeding America. Dreana was inspired by our #RANoHungryChild campaign in 2019 to donate food and reusable bags to the Family Enrichment Network (FEN). This time around, for our #RACultivatingKindness initiative, she tried a new solution to the same problem: growing food!
Inspired to Grow
Dreana explains that she first prepared for the work by “researching which items would be best to donate to food banks, based on versatility, ease of growing, durability, shelf life, and how often they are donated. This way I could provide foods that would be helpful, useful in recipes, and fill in ‘gaps’ in donations.” Thanks to our generous donors, she was able to buy a garden bed frame, soil, plant food, seeds, and mature plants. The next step was construction. This was when Dreana’s parents stepped in while she was recovering from an illness to help clear space, build the raised garden bed, and fill the bed with soil and plant food. A local organization called VINES provided seedlings for bell peppers, broccoli, basil, brussels sprouts, cauliflower, greens, tomatoes, tomatillos, and squash. VINES also donated additional garden space! Finally, the freshly grown vegetables and herbs were split between two places. The first was a basket that hangs outside of the community gardens, which serves as a free drop-off location for extra produce from the gardens. The second was the Binghamton Food Rescue, which very much appreciated the donations of fresh vegetables. Dreana also dehydrated herbs and placed them in labeled tins to donate to the basket and the Binghamton Food Rescue.
A Fresh Impact
Dreana wanted to respect the dignity and privacy of the people who received the food she grew. She was able to see that the basket outside of the community gardens usually emptied quickly. Dreana shared that “a few people stopped by while we were leaving things in the basket, and they all mentioned how grateful they were for the fresh food. One person, in particular, said that she loved being able to grab vegetables to help feed her children more nutritious meals.”
This project also brought Dreana’s family closer together: “My parents and brother helped every step of the way, and we bonded over our little gardens. I’m heartbroken that my community is suffering so much food insecurity right now, but I am so, so thankful to be able to do something about it. I’m already planning out next year’s garden so that my family can make this a tradition.”